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Packing up a practice



He sat in his car, his shirt gummed to his back with sweat. He’d spent all day putting his things into cardboard boxes and driving them across town. The storage building, the place he’d been in and out of all day, used to be a textile factory. It churned out pairs of socks and packs of underwear but it hadn’t made anything in years. Its machinery had been sold off, the workers had left, the windows had been blacked out and nailed shut and it was now just a landmark for the dispossessed.

He got out and ran his hand over its walls, they were smooth and warmed by the sun, at one end of the building was a plastic lean-to, a place for birds to nest, whilst on the other, metal tubes ran up the side, catching the sun-light; silver veins on the back of a brick-red hand.

He’d watched other people come and go all day. He watched as a woman in her 30s parked her little Ford Fiesta next to the loading bay. She was a refugee from the suburbs carrying boxes of children’s toys, a Christmas tree and a plasma screen TV wrapped up in a bin liner. He imagined how proud she must have been when she bought it with her partner, perhaps the first thing they’d bought together as a couple. Now, half forgotten, it was the trinket of a bubble-wrapped life hurriedly lived.

Another car and a similar story. This time a jumble of clothes spun together in a duvet, she emptied it out with all the organisation of a house burglar. She’d taken everything she owned before he got back from work, just like her friend had told her, and the same friend helped her to squeeze and push and jam her life into a lockup garage.

He’d seen all of this. And now it was his turn. He got out of the car and made one last inspection of his own storage space, his own tightly packed corner of the world. After 30 years of serving the community his practice had finally closed its doors and everything had been sold off or stored away. He rolled down the aluminium shutter, there was a quick flash of noise, and then nothing.

There were no witnesses and no one seemed to care. He looked up, hoping to see a familiar face, but the windows were blacked out and nailed tightly shut. 

Dr Kevin Hinkley is a GP in Aberdeen.